Originally created 09/22/05

Local judge will not run for chief seat



Superior Court Judge Duncan D. Wheale has decided not to challenge the Augusta Judicial Circuit's chief judge in next year's judicial elections, he said Wednesday.

For two weeks, speculation about tactics and outcomes has echoed in the circuit's courthouses. Judge Wheale and Chief Judge William M. Fleming Jr. are both up for re-election in November 2006.

"Every day I get either calls, e-mails or letters or people stopping by the office ... to encourage me to run," Judge Wheale said last week.

A personal commitment to a favorite charity led Judge Wheale to decide against challenging Judge Fleming, he said. He cannot lead a charge to build a $20 million to $30 million community center and wage a contested election campaign at the same time, Judge Wheale said.

"My wife, Carolyn, and I are flattered and humbled by all of the support and encouragement ... However, we decided last night that I will not run against Judge William Fleming in November 2006."

Judge Wheale is chairman of the Salvation Army's advisory board. The Augusta Salvation Army is applying for a grant from money that McDonald's heiress Joan Kroc willed to the national charity.

If the Augusta charity wins the grant, it is committed to raising matching funds equal to one-third of the grant in order to build the Kroc Center at Chaffee Park on Broad Street.

Judge Wheale, who has been credited with spurring the Georgia Supreme Court's decision that imposed case assignment and management in the Augusta circuit this year, said he will run for his own seat on the bench in 2006.

Judge Wheale, 58, was first elected to the Superior Court bench in 1998.

Judge Fleming, 80, was appointed to the Superior Court bench in May 1968.

Each judge has continued to win re-election to four-year terms.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com.